MINNEAPOLIS -- After another ugly loss on the road, Utah coach Jerry Sloan thinks his team might be taking a playoff berth for granted.
"Obviously, if you don't win, you don't get to the playoffs," Sloan said. "People have us penciled in way too soon."
Al Jefferson had 22 points and eight rebounds and Rashad McCants scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half of Minnesota's 110-103 victory Sunday over a Utah team that just can't seem to win on the road.
Corey Brewer tied a career high with 16 points and had seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have now beaten the Jazz at home twice this season, losses that are inexcusable for a team that hopes to contend for the Western Conference crown.
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the short-handed Jazz, who are nearly unbeatable at home but just 16-22 on the road this year. That includes two losses in Minneapolis, one in New York and one in Miami.
"It's definitely been frustrating all year," Deron Williams said. "We've had some pretty bad losses on the road. Seems like we don't have the same energy, same intensity that we do at home on the road. ... We've got to win on the road in the playoffs."
This time around, it was lackadaisacal defense and 18 turnovers that doomed a team desperately trying to keep pace with the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio, New Orleans and Phoenix at the top of the West.
The Wolves shot 53 percent for the game and got to the basket far too easily for a team coached by the hard-nosed Sloan.
The Jazz were missing Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Mehmet Okur (illness). This time, Boozer and Williams, who combined for 64 points in a win over the Clippers on Friday, couldn't save the Jazz all by themselves.
Williams had 15 points and 13 assists, but was pretty quiet from a scoring standpoint after getting seven points in the first five minutes.
"They came out and knocked us around like they did the last time," Sloan said, referring to a 111-100 loss at Target Center in February.
The Timberwolves have shown improvement in recent weeks, and they're not the easy win they used to be. They won six of nine before dropping two games in Texas -- to Houston and San Antonio -- last week.
"We're getting better and better," Jefferson said. "To beat a team like this (at home) two games in a row, that says a lot."
Minnesota grabbed a nine-point lead with an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter. McCants had seven points during the spurt, including a jumper from the corner that gave Minnesota an 89-80 lead with 8:30 to go.
And just like the last time they were here, the Jazz sleep-walked through the first three quarters before trying to turn it on the fourth. Just like last time, it was a little too late.
Marko Jaric's 3-pointer gave the Wolves a 101-94 lead with 2:20 to go, and former Jazz forward Kirk Snyder sealed the game with a three-point play with 44 seconds left.
The young Wolves improved to 15-12 when leading after three quarters after struggling mightily to close out games early in the season.
"Earlier in the year that was a big problem for us," Jefferson said. "We are growing up."
Just as in the Stockton-to-Malone days, playing at home hasn't been a problem for these Jazz. They own the NBA's best home record at 32-4 and were coming off three straight victories over Seattle, Charlotte and the Clippers.
But they know that they will have to win on the road when the playoffs start, and Sunday's game cast an ominous sign. They in fourth place in the West, three games behind San Antonio, but also just three ahead of ninth-place Golden State.
Utah's last five games of the season are grueling, with trips to New Orleans, Dallas and San Antonio and home games against Denver and Houston.
"We're going to have to win on the road so we can advance in the playoffs," Boozer said. "But we've got to find something."
|The Jazz struggle against Al Jefferson, who chalks up 22 points and eight rebounds in the win. (AP)|
|Minnesota (19-53) «||20||23||33||34||110|
|UTA:C. Boozer 25 Pts
UTA:C. Boozer 10 Reb
UTA:D. Williams 13 Ast
|MIN:A. Jefferson 22 Pts
MIN:A. Jefferson 8 Reb
MIN:M. Jaric 5 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|C. Boozer, PF||43||12-18||1-1||10||3||4||25|
|D. Williams, PG||42||5-15||4-4||3||13||0||15|
|R. Brewer, SG||30||9-13||2-2||4||0||0||20|
|J. Collins, C||23||0-2||5-6||5||2||2||5|
|C. Miles, SG||20||2-4||3-4||0||4||2||7|
|P. Millsap, PF||29||6-8||3-4||7||2||6||15|
|M. Harpring, SF||27||5-8||2-3||3||3||5||12|
|K. Korver, SF||19||2-6||0-0||3||2||3||4|
|R. Price, PG||6||0-2||0-0||1||2||0||0|
|K. Fesenko, C||1||0-0||0-2||0||0||1||0|
|A. Kirilenko, SF||Did Not Play|
|J. Hart, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Okur, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Almond, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|M. Jaric, SF||40||4-11||1-2||2||5||3||10|
|A. Jefferson, PF||37||7-18||8-9||8||1||3||22|
|R. Gomes, PF||34||8-13||1-2||4||2||3||17|
|R. Foye, PG||27||4-5||0-0||1||5||3||9|
|C. Brewer, SF||26||7-10||2-2||7||3||3||16|
|K. Snyder, SG||26||3-6||4-5||4||4||3||10|
|R. McCants, SG||24||6-10||3-5||2||0||3||16|
|C. Smith, PF||14||2-4||4-4||3||0||0||8|
|C. Richard, PF||11||1-2||0-0||4||0||2||2|
|A. Walker, SF||Did Not Play|
|G. Buckner, SG||Did Not Play|
|M. Doleac, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Madsen, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Telfair, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|